Have you ever noticed that the advice you give your best friend, the words you say as a parent or the sermons you preach to a congregation are often words that you need to hear yourself? I have started to reflect on this question. A collegue and friend, who I had not heard from in quite some time asked me "what's going on?!" in an e-mail to my personal address. I responded with "parenting, pastoring...parenting. It's been a long summer." Those two things: parenting and pastoring seem similar. Or, maybe both of them are deeply relational jobs and it is a complicated time to both parent and pastor. In both jobs, I feel called to offer stories of hope. The noise of negativitiy, polarization and injustice is almost too loud to speak over. It is exhausting.
A dear friend who lives two blocks from my front porch popped in last night as we were making a late dinner. My anxiety was at an all time high. She looked around and the main floor was in perfect condition. Floor picked up, devices tucked away, fresh flowers adorning the dining room and kitchen table, a candle lit. Wow, it's so clean in here. This is what I do when anxiety hits. It's my way of gaining some control. It's my way of making sanctuary in the midst of the noise. This sanctuary allows for the stories of hope to emerge.
I preached this week about birthing and renewal and a bit about resurrections. I was reminded of my sermon, as I did what any mother does when about to give birth. I realized, that I was nesting, making sanctuary so that a new story could come forth and the old could be put away. I was preparing for a transition...summer's end, school, Fall, dying flowers, cool nights, it is all changing.
I am doing a sermon series using Ephesians. I have always been a fan of Paul and his brilliant leadership to the early church but never really spent this amount a time with this letter. It has been challenging for me to embody the words, to let them be planted on my heart. I am not sure if it his legalistic style, language or just hard to take out of context...or not? This week chapter 4, verse 25, Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Meaning make room for growth, make room for renewal, make room for a story of hope.
The next day, I continue with the nesting- for better or worse. The garage was cleaned. Kitchen shined, floors swept. But, I needed Paul's words of peace and reconciliation more than I knew. As hard as the his letter had been, I needed renewal. Let resurrections bloom at summer's end. Then like anyone with anxiety I began to make lists and signs and graphs using masking tape, I placed them around my kitchen. "Mom, you are crazy", yelled one kid as she passed through. One sign's title: Fi-Butts Rules (six basic rules for devices, curfews and money requests). Another sign's title: CASH (with four columns for requesting money from parents). The final sign hung on the snack cabinet and its title: Joy? Under the title are four check boxes 1.) Reframe, 2) Gratitude, 3)Kindness 4) Generosity. The hope was that anyone walking in our back door- persumably after school or work, would see this sign and reflect on their day. Am I feeling joy? If not, do I need to reframe a story? Do I need to have more gratitude for the good things that did happen that day? Maybe to combat saddenss, I will be kind to another and generous?
Sometimes we need to hear our own words, listen to the divine within ourselves. Because sometimes, the labor is painful. Chaotic. The demons are struggleing to let loose. The anxiety ovewelming. Maybe, though, those symptoms are signs of something trying to be born: a new story is ready to be told and signs made out of computer paper, sharpies and masking tape are tools to guide us through the transition. Reframe, gratitude, kindness and generosity.